Travelling to foreign countries and being able to experience new cultures and people is surely one of life’s greatest pleasures. But does your desire to travel seem to conflict with your desire to help people and the planet?
Fortunately, there is absolutely no reason why these activities have to be mutually exclusive, and you will find that it is relatively easy to help abroad while enjoying new cultures and environments. Planning your holiday around volunteer projects will provide you with the opportunity to really immerse yourself in an unfamiliar area of the world whilst also doing some good.
The following continents all offer fascinating and culturally enlightening experiences that will not only provide you with lifelong memories but will stay in the minds of the communities that you help along the way.
Elephants in Africa
Many people travel to Africa specifically to see elephants. Not only are they imposing merely by virtue of their size, but their devotion to family echoes that which we feel towards those closest to us. The African elephant is the world’s largest land animal, and anyone who has been near these animals in the brush, feeling the ground shake beneath their tread and hearing their wild trumpeting, will begin to understand the power and majesty of the natural world.
The range of climates and ecosystems that exist within Africa, everything from bone dry deserts in the north to rainforests in the centre, all offer different opportunities for both adventure and volunteer projects. Savanna covers a great part of the continent and is home to vast herds of wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles, as well as the lions, hyenas, and leopards that prey upon them. The same sense of adventure as seen in the movies The African Queen, Trader Horne, and Out of Africa can be yours when you experience this region at first hand. Collecting information and data about populations and herd movements will help researchers and rangers at Tsavo East National Park provide better care and protection for the elephants.
Tortoises and Rain Forests in Central & South America
Ever since the publication of ‘Origin of Species’ by Charles Darwin, the world has been fascinated by the Galapagos Islands, which are a part of Ecuador. The isolation of the islands from mainland South America has allowed for the development of life forms that evolved without pressures from predators or interference until recently.
The most famous and appealing of the animals found on the Galapagos Islands have to be the giant tortoises. Slow moving, huge, gentle plant eaters, the tortoises can still be found on Isabela, San Cristobal, and Santa Cruz Islands. They make their careful way over the rocks, feeding on cacti (which help supply needed moisture) and other plants. Although the numbers of tortoises has been reduced by a number of factors, the Charles Darwin Research Centre has an active breeding program and has helped to re-establish various tortoise populations. The Centre is a great place to see not only adult tortoises, but the little ones too. Marine iguanas and the different, unique birds of the islands can also be seen here.
Rainforests cover much of Central and South America, and the diversity of species, both plant and animal, is nearly overwhelming for those who travel from temperate climates. The constantly warm air, combined with a high level of humidity, has turned much of this region into a gigantic greenhouse. Unlike forests in cooler areas, where you may find large numbers of one kind of tree, the rainforest goes to the other extreme with small numbers of multitudinous species.
Orangutans and turtles in Asia
The ‘Man of the Forest’, the orangutan, holds a special fascination for many people. The human qualities these intelligent animals possess make it all the more poignant that orangutans are threatened not only by hunting and the pet trade, but also by habitat destruction.
However overwhelming the odds may seem, it is still possible to make a difference by assisting with the restoration of orangutan habitat, and perhaps you will even see a wild orang making its way through the rainforest. What could be more exciting and exhilarating than seeing a mother orangutan with her baby peering at you from a durian tree?
Sea turtles, like the orangutan, are in desperate need of help by those doing voluntary work abroad. Sea turtles are the epitome of a peaceful, harmless animal whose existence is threatened by a variety of sources. Sri Lanka has many beautiful beaches where different species of sea turtle come to lay their eggs.
These turtles will make journeys of hundreds or thousands of miles to visit these nursery beaches and a bit of assistance to both the adults and hatchlings will mean that more of these animals will survive to grace the oceans of the future.
Biog: Le is a nature lover and looking forward to her next voluntary work abroad project which she hopes will involve helping to preserve the habitat of the African rhino.